1.29.2017

Packing always drives me a little nuts. A new backpack always seems like the right thing to try. Here's my latest....


It's obvious to everyone now that you really don't want to check your cameras and lens in as luggage when you fly. The risk of damage and/or loss is just too great, and if you have a job waiting at the other end of the trip it'll make you crazy to arrive without the tools you need to get the work done. I have to confess something here; I am a very nervous flyer when it comes to work. I routinely get to our local airport at least two and a half hours before my scheduled flight. I have anxiety about getting the gear from the car to the Skycaps. If the lines are long I am indecisive about whether I should wait at the curbside check-in or take my chances with the agents inside the terminal. When traveling I am very much like James Thurber character (nervous to a fault) and, at 61, I've given up trying to make massive changes to my own travel psychology. 

Since that is the case I just concentrate on trying to control what I usually can. My upcoming trip to the Toronto area is a classic example. I'm videotaping interviews on location there, and also taking photographs. When we did our first in this series of videos we shot here in the Austin area I had the luxury of brining along everything I even remotely thought I might need. Or want. I had one case full of cameras and lenses. All the good stuff along with back-up cameras and lenses for every possibility. We could easily have done a nice, four camera shoot. I hauled along two big video tripods as well as a shoulder mount and a monopod. 

If we needed light stands in our interior locations we had five stout Manfrotto ten footers, with a couple of C-Stands riding along as contingency support. Lights?
As many as you could wish for, along with about 150 feet of extension cords. But I also had an able assistant, a cavernous car and a marvelous equipment cart that holds about 500 pounds.

Take away the assistant, take away the cart and the car, and then pack down for a five day trip. Add in the need to get everything into two checked bags on an airplane, along with one check-in process, and you've already got my cortisol levels rising. Then there's the line for TSA.  Add in one encounter each with Canadian customs and U.S. customs and top it all off with getting everything to a rental car and wedging it in. The solution seems to be two checked, wheeled bags and a stout carry-on. But not too stout; you don't want to take the risk that your big, wheeled, Think Tank (original) Airport Security case will not find a rightful place in the overhead compartments and will be required to be gate checked.  

I think I've done a good job figuring out how to pack the checked luggage. I'm praying that sturdy lights and microphones in padded cases will withstand the baggage handling carnage. If the light stands or tripod don't survive I've already figured out where the closest camera store is to the shooting location and how to get there. My big concern always comes back to the cameras...

I still shiver with the memory of being shunted onto a much smaller regional jet on a recent project. It was a last minute change. The overheads weren't big enough to handle the Think Tank case and it was also too big to fit under the seat. I was forced to gate check it but not before I pulled out three cameras, put lenses on each one, and draped them over my body to carry them onto the plane. In that particular situation everything worked out and the rest of the gear arrived along with me unscathed. 

I was going to default to one of the big Domke bags in the closet for the cameras on this trip but at the last minute I found myself looking for photo backpacks on Amazon. Almost on a dare with myself I ordered one from their line of "Amazon Basics." It looked good on the website....

It arrived yesterday and, after pulling it out of its nest of double boxes, I put it next to the equipment cabinet and got to work. The backpack is nicely padded and has velcro-equipped dividers inside that are easily reconfigurable. The backpack current has a Sony A7rii with a 24-70mm Zeiss zoom mounted, a Sony a6300, a Sony RX10ii, a Sony RX10iii, a Sony 18-105 G PZ lens, a Contax 50mm f1.7, a Rokinon Cine 85mm t1.5, a Rokinon Cine 14mm t3.1, 10 Sony camera batteries, 3 large batteries for the Aputure Monitor, and chargers. Many chargers. The side pockets have a phone, passport, car key, phone charger, pen, my itinerary and boarding passes. The padded pocket for a 17 inch laptop has my burgeoning collection of notes, script, shot list and contact information for the job. I'll probably toss in a Kindle Fire as well. One always needs a good book....

The rear straps on the backpack seem well integrated and I'm pleased that the interior space is both well padded and bright orange. The bright color makes finding all the little black parts that go along with cameras much easier. The whole package is slimmer, smaller and lighter in weight than my (now forlorn) Airport Security Case and I'm reasonable sure it will fit under the seat in front of me on a plane; should it come down to that. 

Here's the funny thing (at least to me...): This backpack cost $69, including shipping. It is almost identical to the backpacks from Tenba, Think Tank, Tarmac and others but at half to one third the price.
It's a whole new packing adventure but I think I found the perfect size back pack for commercial air travel with cameras and expensive toys.
Many places to put lenses and cameras. Doesn't that SmallRig case look great on the a7rii?

Nicely padded.

And for all those people that just feel they have to travel with a laptop computer....a padded pocket for a  17 inch laptop. (or papers, a Kindle and an extra mic cable..)

I'd buy one again!


11 comments:

typingtalker said...

And there's no brand name on the outside that says, "There are valuable cameras and lenses inside. Please steal this bag."

Butch said...

Thanks for great info. I've wondered about the Amazon packs - they look fine in the photos, and the price certainly is right, but you never can tell. ??? This brings me to a question: Kirk, when you walk around Austin, do you carry your camera "bare"? I.e., with just a strap? Do you ever use a holster? I want to be able to carry my camera A LOT, in fact everywhere. Friends formerly joked that my camera was umbilically attached. I now have a big honking full-frame camera with battery grip; not really afraid of the weight but would love to hear your thoughts on a comfortable, quick access way to bring it along everywhere. I'm considering a Domke F-2 (comfortable) or some other flattish soft shoulder/sling pack. ???? Thanks.

Alex said...

Nice!
The quest for the perfect backpack might be even worse than the one for camera and its bag.

Did you pack zip-ties, duct tape and a sharp knife? Wouldnt want to be forced to improvise without these necessities.

Peter said...

Enjoy your trip. I look forward to hearing your impressions of the area, and hope that you get some sun, even if it isn't too warm.

Peter Wright.

Alan Fairley said...


It drives me batshit crazy how all the camera backpacks are black, there is no worse color to carry gear in. I needed a photo backpack to carry gear last spring doing some photography for the USGS in the Grand Canyon, hours at a time in the full sun with temperatures around 100 degrees F, and I couldn't use a shoulder bag instead of a camera backpack because of some of the tricky terrain we covered. The lightest colored pack I could find was an orange Chinese one on Amazon (which didn't hold a huge amount of gear but worked OK). Years ago Fred Picker sold white carrying bags for his view camera; he had measured inside temps of black and white bags in the sun, and guess what, the white one was tens of degrees cooler. Maybe electronics are more forgiving than film, but I'd still rather keep my gear as cool as possible.

Kodachromeguy said...

I just looked at Amazon. Did you buy the backpack called, "AmazonBasics DSLR and Laptop Backpack - Orange interior"? This one looks a bit different than the one you bought, especially the handle on top. The current one is only $39.95.

Kirk Tuck said...

The one I bought is $69 and is pretty big. I'm sure they make a smaller one with a different model # but might be called the same thing. Shop carefully!

To Alan, Tenba makes photo backpacks is a very, very light moss green. In various sizes. I have one that is too small for this adventure but works well in the Austin Summers. Check Tenba for that.

Butch said...

Alan, I bought a cheap insert from Amazon ($12?) and put it in my Osprey backpack when I need to lug the DSLR to events on my bike. Works wonderfully well, a perfect fit, very padded and has a top flap.

FasterThanEver said...

I've used a smaller Amazon Basics camera bag for ~18 months on a number of short and long trips. It has held up very well.

Kent Phelan said...

Thanks Kirk! Mine arrived today, my 285th camera bag, I think...

Most notable feature: Materials and build quality! This thing is seriously well made and well thought out. I have filled it with a Fuji X-T2, plus 7 lenses and accessories. Easy-peasy.

Not sure where they sourced it from, but Amazon has a winner on its hands. Thanks for your post.

Kent

EdPledger said...

I too ordered one, and while it seems well made, I will be returning it as it isn't quite large enough. A bit short for my torso length, and although shoulder straps are well enough padded, the strap that runs across the chest from the shoulder straps slips its position vertically. And I prefer a bit more stout and broad hip straps and support, so that most of the weight load is on hips. Almost but not quite for me.